OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE- LONDON 2012
My 4th Olympic experience was pretty awesome. Unfortunately I didn't have the best build up as I picked up a tendon injury in my left hip area, five weeks out from the race. I couldn't run outside (had been using the Alter G training machine as well as riding whilst injured to maintain my aerobic fitness) until the week leading up to the race but despite this, I was determined to still go to London and compete with all I had.
Trust me, my first thought was that I wasn't go to go, as was caught up thinking that the Olympics was all about being at your peak fitness, ready to try and win a medal, competing against the world's best etc etc. But taking a step back after being faced with an adverse situation, I realized that the Olympics meant more than just that. Actually the Olympics meant so much more than that. Being chosen to compete for your country, on the world stage, at an Olympic Games, isn't an opportunity you should pass up lightly. Making amazing friendships, helping younger athletes in your team, seeing others compete in sports you could not even imagine doing yourself and experiencing the magic of unique places such as the Olympic Village - is what the Olympics is ALSO about. I wanted to experience this for the 4th time, something many other elite athletes world wide would kill for, to just get to do once.
So the day rolled around finally...The London Olympic marathon, August 5th, 2012.
I was totally amazed by the amazing support I experienced at all corners of the Olympic marathon course. Thankyou to everyone for being there to support me - in London and around the world watching on television or following online. Unfortunately I was sore from about 5km into the race so knew it was going to be a tough day, just to finish. But somehow I finished. It was my slowest ever marathon time but greatest experience. Nothing will ever top that crowd screaming on the streets of London. Despite getting taken away from the race in a wheelchair, I was still thrilled to finish and complete the race as a proud Australian Olympian. I hope to always be a great role model to others especially youngsters in our society - always do your best, no matter what the circumstance or how grim the outcome may look. Keep plugging away bit by bit and you'll get there. Once you give up, you have no hope to finish what you start. I felt like this after 5km into the race. I was determined to finish - unless I couldn't physically run. I felt elated crossing the line for this reason. I have not even looked at my official time or placing but that's not important to me. I am now a 4 time Olympian who will always be proud of my achievements to date and very excited to continue on running for a few more years yet. After I have a bit of a break in Australia with my awesome family. Thanks for your support.......until next time!!
2:28:23 in Houston, Texas!
In my first marathon since the Beijing Olympics, I was thrilled to run really well and qualify as the fastest Aussie in this event, for my 4th Olympics in London later in the year. It has been a tough few years since the games in Beijing, 2008 but I never gave up and persisted. I guess you are stronger not only as a person, but as an athlete, when you don't give up and finally in the end, get rewarded for all the hard work you put in...when sometimes it seems you're never going to get out of that dark hole and into the light. I am by no means in my best form yet but expect to be by London. After winning the Rock n Roll Vegas Half marathon in December (2011) and breaking the course record (running 70:40min at 3000 feet altitude), I knew I could then do it in the marathon in Houston and continue on my path back to the top. My manager, Nic Bideau said to me a few years ago, "it's going to be tough for you to get back to your best form. Only the best of best athletes in the world have ever done this. It will be harder than before when you won World Cross (in 2004)." He said that Colin Jackson (British 110m hurdler) did it but few others have in the history of the sport. I knew from that day, it was going to be harder then I could imagine. But I was up for the challenge and wouldn't give in untill I could achieve what I know I still have left in me, to complete my career.
I have fully recovered from the Houston marathon (where I finished 2nd by the way and ran well within myself, felt great the whole way) and am now back in full training at my base in Boulder, Colorado, USA. I enjoy living here and have a great training group - under the guidance of coach, Brad Hudson and our great team of runners to work with. Brad had some amazing results in Houston at the USA Olympic Trials - 3 guys in the top 13 all running PB's as well as some good results in the female race too. My main training partner and good friend, James Carney ran 2:12 which was over a 3min PB. Was very motivating to see so many of our group in Hudson Training Systems run so well on Saturday in Houston ahead of my race, the Houston marathon the day after on Sunday.
Will keep you updated on my progress to London! Thank you for your support! Especially Saucony, UCAN and Oakley - amazing team behind me. I'm very lucky to have this support.
Unfortunately injuries happen
After returning home from Spain, I continued training very well, particularly fast track workouts, sprinting and solid tempo runs. I felt I was approaching the fitness of where I was at back in 2006 - which was bloody awesome. It's a great feeling going through each day getting stronger, faster and more confident mentally.
But unfortunately my right foot started to get sore. Initially I thought it was a tendon problem but after a week off running (and hard cross-training), my foot was still very sore to run on or even walk on. So I did an MRI scan and it showed a calcaneus stress fracture. I was devastated. Firstly to learn of this injury and secondly to have to pull out of the World Cross Country championships in Spain. This would have been my 9th World Cross Country championships - an event where I've never finished outside the top 20 and have won 3 medals, one of them gold in 2004. I was picked to lead the Australian team - I always enjoy these roles as love to help out and guide the youngsters coming through in the sport.
I was talking to Brent Vaughn (winner of the US World Cross trial) the other day and we both concluded that this sport is 'brutal'....That's about right. You've got to train so close to that thin red line of getting injured. If you're not close enough, then you're not training hard enough but sometimes, you push the envelope too far and injuries happen. All the top athletes get injured - it's a fact of the sport. And if you aren't pushing enough, you won't get anywhere, a pussy in my books. I recently watched the Sydney Olympics in 2000 - women's 800m. Kelly Holmes got the bronze medal after battling injuries for years and even just before the games. She got back running only weeks out and just got in there and got stuck in. Mentally she believed she could be up there and she sure was. Very inspirational.
Thankfully I have some great friends and training partners around here in Boulder and great support from my family and training group back in Australia. I am keeping a positive outlook (keeping busy doing other things non-running related that sometimes are pushed to the backburner when you're training hard) and remaining really focused on running a good marathon later in the year, then an even better one at the London Olympics.
And also when you're out injured, I think it makes you realise how much you've got to make the most of every opportunity you have during a race when fit and healthy. Make every race count as if it is your last.
2011 - The Year that'll Make all the Difference
I have just returned home from two very competitive XC races in Spain. The first race went particularly well, an IAAF Permit meet in Seville on Jan 16th. I placed 7th in a field of the all the absolute best Africans around today - was very close to 5th. But it is not the placing that I was most impressed with. It was how I felt in the race. The feeling was one which I haven't experienced in years. It was a feeling of confidence, of strength and 'belonging'. I felt like I had many years ago when I won the World Cross Country or when I ran 2hr22 in Chicago marathon. What I came away from this experience with, was knowing in my heart that I can really do this sport well again. And I will. It is just that when you have been at the very top and for some reason or another, have had a few below par years, the journey back there is tough. Tougher than getting there in the first place. Especially in the highly competitive sport of middle/ long distance running. Doing all the right training is not going to get you back there. Having a coach pump you up all the time is not going to get you there. What will get you there, is YOU - wanting it more than you once did those many years ago. And pretending like you've never been there before - getting driven by a hunger, fuelled by seeing improving results with every race. This is the only way success can ultimately happen again.
After being selected along with Craig Mottram to lead our Aussie team to the World Cross Country Championships in Spain on March 20 - I feel so excited. I want to be a good leader for our team but also, perform another step closer to my absolute best and inch my way back to the top of the sport. Patience is the key but there is no subsitite for dedication, committment, hard work and ruthlessness. Knowing what you want. And achieving it.
So I am back in Boulder now with some fantastic people around me. Looking foward to recoveing from my last trip, then training hard to prepare for World Cross. Here is the IAAF link - we have a really stong Aussie team!
14th November 2010
Hi everyone - after returning home from a great team placing of 4th at the World Half Marathon Champs in China, I decided to begin my XC training for the Winter season ahead with my goal, being the World Cross Country championships in late March in Spain. I am very excited to be focused on XC again. I totally LOVE this season and the challenges XC bring!
I am now in Europe - basing in London and racing a series of little XC races in Spain and Portugal. My first race was in Spain last week and my second race was in Portugal (Lisbon) yesterday. And then I'm planning to race in Holland next weekend.
Unfortuately I picked up a flu type bug and have been a little bit sick in London all week. I decided yesterday to still race but didn't feel real good in the race - just a bit weak and not my usual perky self. I saw a Dr at the course following the race and he told me I had a fever and temperature. Sometimes it is hard as elite athletes to know when to 'not run' because of sickness as we are always trying to push the limits no matter what. I guess that's in our personalities - sometimes it can be our own worst enemy. I feel it is much harder to rest and take it easy, rather than to go out and do a race or a really hard workout.
I will now take a few days very easy then get back into things.
Will head back to Boulder, Colorado for the remainder of the Winter months. I love training there and although it will get cold, the days are always sunny, making it bearable. Plus I have the best mates and training partners there as well as great support from Saucony and Rally Sport (the gym I go to).
Head back to Europe in Jan for some more XC races. Will keep you updated on my progress!
Also have just written on the GreatRun website (http://www.greatrun.org/News/BlogNews.aspx?nid=7053&tkn=nws201009). It's some stuff about Winter training, circuits and a tribute to Haile G....such an amazing athlete and person. I was fortunate to have him at a house party at my place in Melbourne in 2008! So check that out.
GOING TO CHINA!
8th October 2010
Wow, it is certainly road racing season. So many of my mates are racing each and every weekend now. It is very exciting to follow them around the world as I do get a huge kick out of seeing my training partners and friends race well. I know how much each and every one of us ‘runners’ put into what we do. The racing is reward at the end for all the hard work!
I decided to go to Nanning, China for the World Half Marathon Championships (Oct 16th) late last week. As I missed a lot of training in August, I was unsure how I’d come back since returning to Boulder 3 weeks ago. I have just loved getting back into the hard work and thoroughly enjoying my running and the workouts.
To test my fitness ahead of China, I decided to do the 8km CU Rocky Mountain Shootout XC last weekend here in Boulder. Coach Wetmore was very accommodating in welcoming me into his awesome event, and I was fortunate to be allowed to run in the mens race. The first time they’ve ever let a woman run against the men! It was totally an awesome experience. There were hundreds of men in this race and the start was just as hectic as World Cross! I loved it and felt I ran very strongly – my time was very good too…..And despite having not raced for a few months, I always feel right at home running XC. I just feel like I glide over the rocky, rough terrain and can run freely, be tough and finish strong regardless of what else is going on in my life etc and where my fitness is at. I just feel I can switch off all distractions and focus solely on the race and my goals within it. I was on a high after that run for the next day or so. To me, running in XC races is like an addiction. I really miss it and do crave racing these events. Yeah, afterwards, they give me such a rush. The crowd out there was amazing and it was so loud in the race. Both the men and women's races were fantastic and so competitive! Some real talent out here in the US.
I can’t wait to go to Nanning now – feeling good and looking forward to seeing the rest of the Aussie team! I visited a local primary school in Westminister yesterday - it was their annual Pumpkin 1 Mile Run. I ran the races with the children then talked to them about my life as an elite athete, Australia, the importance of leading a healthy, fit lifestyle and following your goals. The children were amazing! I love doing this voluntary work around the local community.
I have a lot of mates running over in Delhi at the Commonwealth Games. I am just a little annoyed to hear of a certain men’s distance race where a white guy (from another country) crosses the line, looks up to his mates and yells out….”first non-African”……I didn’t know they gave medals out for this. He was obviously running just to beat the ‘white guys’ and had accepted defeat…..even before the race had begun, that he could not beat the Africans. I hate this attitude. You must get in amongst it and fight to beat everyone you race against. Once you give in to certain athletes, whether they are African or not….you are finished. You will never achieve greatness - as in your mind, you have already been defeated before the race is even underway.
Will keep in touch from China!
23rd September 2010
After an unexpected but unavoidable 5 week trip back to Australia, I am now back in the mountains in Boulder, CO......training hard and looking foward to the future. I was unable to do any workouts whilst in Australia.....that has really fired me up but at the same time, makes me appreciate where I'm at now, training hard, with no obstacles in the way.
I did a hard 90min run today and during that time, I thought of all my best performances and what it really does take for running brilliance to come about. I believe you need to be fired up, show controlled aggression in races and be apt and willing to take risks. For it is this 'risk' taking where you'll truely achieve what you're capable of. When I won the World Cross Country in 2004, I surged with 1500m to go and got a gap of say 10m on the pack of Africans. At that point, yes I took a risk (it is daunting having a pack of Africans trying to chase you down) but I wasn't thinking, "I hope they don't catch me".....I was only thinking about the consequence of winning the race...I was thinking "I've gotta increase this gap now despite that I am hurting like hell".....I won that race (by 27sec). The last non-African to do so. When I went to Chicago marathon in 2006, I went out for the first 1/2 in 70.10. When I saw that time on the clock, I didn't think "wow, maybe that is a bit too fast (as my marathon PR at the time was 2.26)"...I was thinking "wow, I feel good and maybe I could run quick here". I ran 2.22. I guess the point of this is - don't go your whole career just 'being comfortable and conservative' in your training and racing. You need to push the limits and see what you can achieve. Sure sometimes it might not work out, but to run great, you have to be prepared to stand on the line, ready and willing to take that risk.
I think I have been taking risks all my life so maybe it is built into my personality. When I was 5, I jumped off the verandah of a 2 storey house to try catch a balloon that was flying away...My favourite holiday as a kid was riding motorbikes, going shooting pigs/ birds with my Uncles on their apple farms. My brothers called me "miss hack" in backyard hockey...due to my aggressive nature to win games at all costs thus maybe doing some illegal tackles against them at times....So sure, it has to be bred into us. And I guess I am at the stage in my career where I am ready to get the 2nd half underway.
My training since I have been back in Boulder has been going really well - I am getting fitter and fitter each week. I am running harder on the off days and getting in 3 workouts per week plus a 2hr run on Sunday. I will decide next week whether or not I'll go to China for the World Road Running Championships then after that I will work towards some races in Europe in November. I can't wait!
I am also working with some high school XC kids locally around Boulder. It is great fun and I do enjoy hearing about these kids' workouts, talking to them about competing around the world, telling them stories about my career and also talking to them about what it takes to make the step from a good junior, to a top senior. It is a tough transition, needing a lot of support from families and most of all, coaches and training groups. The US has a great 'Team' support network for these kids.
Ok, to finish - keep working hard towards your goals. There are a number of major city marathons coming up...I would kill to be racing Chicago, Berlin or New York. Maybe next year. If you are in any of these type races, remember not to be fearful of taking a risk and going for it. When you start to hurt, think only about the great things that could come about, now that you've had the guts to commit. If it were easy to be a champion, we'd all be champions. Keep that in mind too.
BUILDING UP FOR YOUR GREAT EVENT
by Benita Willis - 9 Sep 2010
Hope you’ve all had a fantastic summer and are continuing your fitness/racing goals on the road toward some awesome events coming up – especially in the Great Run series over these next few months!
Wow, the Bupa Great North Run is just around the corner again and this year, it is a mighty special event, being the 30th running of the race. Just to be fortunate enough to be running in the event in any year is an absolute buzz, however this year, it’ll be even more special. Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and the world have truly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in this event and experience its unique atmosphere, hearing the enthusiastic crowds and bands en route on their way to achieving their lifelong dreams as they cross the finish line. All finishers are winners in my books! You should have a look at our Bupa 30th Great North Run Facebook page when you have time in the next few weeks.
Friday, 27th August 2010 - Benita Willis
I have been working hard on my website lately and have made a few changes. I hope you like it! I have also started a twitter account and tweet regularly! I am based in Boulder, Colorado (USA) now as I feel I want to live permanently at altitude in the lead up to the London Olympics - my goal there being to compete in the marathon.
Boulder is a fantastic part of the world - an awesome town, plenty of hilly, rocky trails to run on in the mountains as well as fantastic people to train with and a great community of friends. We have some top cafes to relax in after the mornings of hard training and trips to the gym. My favourite is at the moment is 'The Cup' but there are many, many around. You can't really go wrong!
Right now, I am in a hard training block ahead of some road races in October. I have the World Road Running championships coming up in China on 16th Oct so working towards that. We have a great Australian team. Will be an awesome trip with good results expected from all!
Better get out for a jog! Until next time, B
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